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Could a contracting change jeopardize commercial crew?

[Based on a longer post at NewSpace Journal]

NASA’s Commercial Crew Development, or CCDev, program has so far relied on Space Act Agreements (SAAs), giving both the agency and participating companies greater flexibility to make progress on those systems. However, NASA officials indicated Wednesday that in future CCDev rounds they may shift to a somewhat more traditional contract, a move that has alarmed industry.

At a commercial crew forum held by NASA at the Kennedy Space Center yesterday, CCDev program officials talked about their plans for the next phase of the program, which would come next year. The “Integrated Design” phase would last two years and bring participating companies up through the critical design review on their systems, the last step before starting actual construction. This two-year phase would be followed by a Development, Test, Evaluation, and Certification (DTEC) phase, which would also include the initial flights to the International Space Station.

NASA’s original intent, according to Brent Jett, a former astronaut serving as deputy program manager for NASA’s commercial crew program, was to use an SAA again for the Integrated Design phase. “As the team dug a little bit further into the Space Act Agreement, we did find several key limitations,” he said. The biggest one, he said, is that NASA cannot mandate requirements under an SAA, including for crew safety, but only provide them as a reference for industry. “Even if industry chose to design to those requirements, NASA is not allowed to tie any of the milestones in an SAA to compliance with those requirements,” he said. “That means NASA cannot accept the verification of those requirements and certify the system the way we need to for commercial crew under a Space Act Agreement.” (COTS used something of a loophole in those rules that allow the agency to levy safety requirements when a NASA facility—the ISS—was involved; it would not apply for other phases of flight, including launch and reentry.)

NASA’s proposed new approach for the next CCDev round, according to commercial crew program manager Ed Mango, “combines the best elements of an SAA with the features of a contract that wil allow NASA to approve the tailoring of requirements and the certification of a vehicle.” This “non-traditional contract” would continue to use milestone-based payments and also exempt companies from the cost accounting standards of the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR). “We believe that we are much closer to an SAA in our approach than we are to a traditional contract,” he said.

Representatives of industry present at the forum strongly objected to this proposed approach, though, largely out of concerns that, even with the cost accounting exception, adhering to the FAR would be very expensive. “Instead of taking an American flag to the station, we should have taken the FAR to the station and left it up there,” said Mike Gold of Bigelow Aerospace, referring to an American flag flown on the first shuttle mission that was left behind by the last shuttle crew, to be retrieved by the first commercial crew vehicle to visit the station. “You can’t take a traditional approach and expect anything but the traditional results, which has been broken budgets and not fielding any flight hardware.”

Others challenged the NASA conclusion that an SAA could not be used for commercial crew. Bobby Block of SpaceX noted that his company had an option on its COTS award—not exercised by NASA—to develop a crew capability as part of an SAA. Brett Alexander, former president of the Commercial Spaceflight Federation, said NASA should provide more documentation to support its conclusion that an SAA would not work for CCDev, given that past analyses, by both NASA’s Inspector General and the Government Accountability Office, have concluded that SAAs are suitable for this. “[NASA's Office of the] General Counsel has not divulged what its legal reasoning is,” he said, “and I think they need to do that—not a couple charts, not things that you brief, but a legal brief that says, ‘here’s why,’ so that we can have that discussion.”

Mango and Jett said they were open to suggestions and feedback from industry on their proposed strategy for the next CCDev round. At the same time, NASA released yesterday a “Sources Sought Synopsis”, required under the FAR as the first step in the next phase of the CCDev program if they proceed under their proposed contract strategy. “I don’t want people to think that we’re locked in to this idea of a contract,” he said, but “we need to work in parallel so that we can continue to move forward.”

90 comments to Could a contracting change jeopardize commercial crew?

  • Some nut e-mailed this to me yesterday claiming it was clear proof that Obama was going to deorbit the ISS in 2020 … which would be a neat trick considering he leaves office in January 2017, assuming he’s re-elected.

  • amightywind

    “You can’t take a traditional approach and expect anything but the traditional results, which has been broken budgets and not fielding any flight hardware.”

    Boeing and Lockmart seemed to have done well enough in the traditional compliance regime. Mike Griffin has suggested that part of the newspace con is to avoid any technical or financial oversight at all.

  • CharlesHouston

    It is going to be tough for NASA to “let go of the reins” for capsules and crew transport – time will tell if they are willing to do that. Will they trust Boeing and SpaceX (among others) to implement standards according to the way that NASA wants them implemented?
    Will Boeing and SpaceX (among others) crew members have the influence that NASA crew members have had? Certainly plenty of NASA crew members have paid the price for their colleagues’s failure to speak up, what is the attitude of the commercial managers and crews?

  • “You can’t take a traditional approach and expect anything but the traditional results, which has been broken budgets and not fielding any flight hardware.”

    Ahh, but there’s a strong block in Congress that want to do this, if they can’t maintain the old STS infrastructure.

    I believe I predicted such in the previous post.

    Follow the money my friends.

  • vulture4

    The contracting approach could rob the CCDev program of much of its benefits. NASA says only level 1 and 2 requirements will be imposed, but is unfortunately not able to balance requirements against cost; NASA is better off stating general goals and letting the contractors establish strategies and requirements.

  • Mark Whittington

    This is what happens when there is too much government involvement in the commercial sector, Those who cheered when Obama decided to pour billions of subsidies into commercial space might now want to consider that with government rules comes government bureaucracy and regulation. Clearly the Bush approaches, limited funding but also limited interfeerebce, was the preferred way to go.

  • Norm Hartnett

    No surprise. I’ve never had any faith that NASA would really allow fair and free competition for space exploration.

    “You can’t take a traditional approach and expect anything but the traditional results, which has been broken budgets and not fielding any flight hardware.”

    Another ten year hiatus before we get an over budget, under preforming, space launch system that will limp along for thirty years taking us nowhere.

  • Mark Whittington

    That should have read “–with government money comes government bureaucracy and regulation.”

  • Coastal Ron

    Norm Hartnett wrote @ July 21st, 2011 at 12:20 pm

    No surprise. I’ve never had any faith that NASA would really allow fair and free competition for space exploration.

    It’s statements like this that hurt commercial crew efforts, not help.

    CCDev is not space exploration. CCDev is developing space taxi’s to transport people between Earth and LEO destinations like the ISS.

    While you could evolve a space taxi so it could do exploration, that is beyond the scope of the CCDev program, and likely a pretty expensive thing to do. All the CCDev participants are focused on just getting to/from LEO right now, and nowhere else.

    And while you could use the MPCV/SLS exploration combo as a space taxi to LEO, that would definitely be expense (~$250M/seat) and a waste of the U.S. Taxpayer money.

    Where the two overlap is in the philosophy of where exploration should start. You could take a space taxi to LEO and meet up with your exploration spacecraft or fleet. I think this makes a lot of economic and logistical sense. But so far Congress is of the opinion that all NASA exploration has to start from sea level on a NASA owned rocket.

    So I don’t see this as a NASA vs Commercial issue, but more of a Congresses pork vs Commercial open market issue.

  • DCSCA

    Stephen C. Smith wrote @ July 21st, 2011 at 8:19 am

    You mean like President Bush ordering the shuttle to end operations in October, 2010 when he would be out of office on 1/20.2009. Keep away from space hardware.

  • vulture4

    Mark Whittington wrote @ July 21st, 2011 at 11:07 am
    “Those who cheered when Obama decided to pour billions of subsidies into commercial space might now want to consider that with government rules comes government bureaucracy and regulation. Clearly the Bush approaches, limited funding but also limited interfeerebce, was the preferred way to go.”

    The existing CCDev program is under Space Act agreements, not contracts. Bush spent far more on Constellation and specified every detail in contracts, including the exact design and the names and locations of the contractors to be “competitively” selected to build it.

  • This appears to be much ado about nothing. A difference in legal interpretations that will be cleaned up through an attorney’s opinion or legislation.

  • amightywind

    October, 2010 when he would be out of office on 1/20.2009.

    That 2010 date was set by the estimated completion date of ISS and the shuttle flight rate. As I have said before, Obama and Co. have had plenty of time to manage the politics of the end of the shuttle, and redirect NASA, but have done so remarkably badly. They also could have extended the program in lieu of a shuttle replacement. Now there is blood in the water.

  • Robert G. Oler

    Mark Whittington wrote @ July 21st, 2011 at 11:07 am

    still banging that Bush drum.

    Obama has not poured “billions” into commercial space. He stopped billions from going into “NASA space” it was the GOP folks in the Congress who insisted on more billions going into a system that will never fly

    Robert G. Oler

  • Major Tom

    “Those who cheered when Obama decided to pour billions of subsidies into commercial space might now want to consider that with government rules comes government bureaucracy and regulation.”

    These aren’t “subsidies” if NASA is paying companies to develop capabilities that NASA plans to use.

    And the Administration hasn’t poured “billions” of dollars into commercial crew. The CCDev-1 and CCDev-2 awards together only total $320 million (with an “m”).

    Don’t make stuff up.

    “Clearly the Bush approaches, limited funding but also limited interfeerebce, was the preferred way to go.”

    It has nothing to do with the amount of dollars involved. It’s all about whether the vehicles carry astronauts or not.

    The COTS program started under the Bush II Administration only deals with cargo. Because it was just cargo, NASA didn’t care to impose requirements on the ascent or descent legs of COTS flights. As long as the COTS vehicles didn’t threaten ISS, which NASA could effectively impose requirements for via Space Act Agreements (SAAs), NASA didn’t care.

    The CCDev program started under the Obama Administration now deals with astronauts. Because NASA is responsible for the safety of its astronauts, NASA does care to impose requirements on the ascent and descent legs of CCDev flights. NASA believes it can’t impose such requirements under SAAs, so NASA is proposing to use a lite version of a Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR) instrument.

    COTS could cost $10 trillion and CCDev could cost $10 thousand, and NASA would still propose using SAAs for the former and FAR lite for the latter because the latter involves astronaut lives on ascent/descent while the former does not. Money has nothing to do with it.

    Don’t make idiotic statements out of ignorance.

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ July 21st, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    one of the things you are is “simply entertaining”.

    I would think after the NH debate where not a SINGLE GOP candidate came out for increasing NASA funding or any “great new missions” that even you would recognize that the “support” such as it is from people like Perry is designed to bash obama rather then offer any support.

    Mike Huckabee who has really no dogs in the GOP fight right now,churns on his facebook page to try and understand what issues fire the right wing GOP imagination.

    He put up a “wow its sad the shuttle is ending” post and while there was the predictable Obama bashing from the uninformed what was amazing is that a good chunk of the posters decryed the spending.

    You will notice in his “press release” that “Pray good times to come” Perry made no mention of any grand plans…that is because he knows that there is no money and that to advocate spending money at NASA in the traditional way is to risk the wrath of his constituents who are hearing news in Dallas, Houston, and a few other towns that there is not enough money to open the schools this fall…and in Perry land there is not enough money for the right wingers on the TEC to buy new books that support their theories on creation.

    Why has not a single GOP candidate for President come out against the budget cuts at NASA?

    Robert G. Oler

  • DCSCA

    @amightywind wrote @ July 21st, 2011 at 4:47 pm

    Windy, the space shuttle was not a cost-effective space transportation system for the Age of Austerity and what ‘you’ say doesn’t change the glaring evidence published in the CAIB, which reaffirmed what the Rogers Commission revealed- the management culture at NASA is bloated, sluggish and quite literally deadly in organization and operational characteristics. It needs cleared out and fresh thinking put in place, which, for better or worse, President Obama is attempting to do. To be sure he has been poorly advised on immediate space policy by the likes of Garver and Bolden. But putting aside the engineering advances shuttle represented, it never lived up to its promise of ‘paying its own way’ which Americans demand, particularly in this Age of Austerity. Economics put shuttle on its deathbed and bad management at NASA ultimately killed it. Time to move on.

  • Michael from Iowa

    NASA has few friends in Congress, Republican or Democrat.

  • Major Tom

    “Boeing and Lockmart seemed to have done well enough in the traditional compliance regime.”

    The EELVs were not developed in the “traditional compliance regime” (what weird wording…) of the Federal Acquisition Regulations (FAR). They were developed under DOD’s Other Transaction Authority (OTA), which is roughly equivalent to NASA’s Space Act Agreement (SAA) authority.

    Don’t make stuff up.

    “Mike Griffin has suggested that part of the newspace con is to avoid any technical or financial oversight at all.”

    Quote? Link? Evidence?

    If Griffin actually made such a stupid statement, it would be false. Even in the COTS program, NASA conducted authority-to-proceed (ATP) reviews at the end of every award milestone to determine whether to award funding for the prior milestone and start work on the next milestone.

    Traditional FAR contracts and NASA flight program management requirements (7120.5) actually require fewer ATP reviews than what the COTS contractors have been subject to. These ATP reviews were actually critical to stopping work on the Kistler K-1 derived vehicle and redirecting funding to the OSC Taurus II/Cygnus vehicle.

    Stop making stuff up.

  • DCSCA

    Major Tom wrote @ July 21st, 2011 at 5:34 pm
    “These aren’t “subsidies” if NASA is paying companies to develop capabilities that NASA plans to use.”

    =blink= Of course they are, particularly if the ‘seed monies’ for high risk, low ROI are denied from the private capital markets and the government, through NASA, subsidized the development. ‘Don’t make idiotic statements out of ignorance,’ indeed.

  • Norm Hartnett

    “It’s statements like this that hurt commercial crew efforts, not help.”

    Your point is well taken, however, switching from a SAA to a FAR lite contract in the middle of the program is, to say the least, scary. A developing industry does not need these kind of change ups. Very bad for attracting investors.

    There seems to be substantial agreement in the industry that NASA had sufficient requirement certification authority within the SAA. GAO and IGO both seemed to concur. So why are NASA OGC and the CCP changing the rules?

  • DCSCA

    Michael from Iowa wrote @ July 21st, 2011 at 5:49 pm
    NASA has few friends in Congress, Republican or Democrat.

    NASA can be its own worst enemy as well. Simple PR things. Like screwing up the STS-134 launch with months to prep as the CIC was going to attend. No excuse for that. And y’know, on July 20, the ‘wake-up call’ was ‘Fanfare F/T Common Man’ which the incredibly elitist space shuttle astronaut corps, management and engineering teams hardly represent at all. And given this was the last shuttle, one would have expected Neil, Buzz or Mike to awaken them and hail the triumphs of manned spaceflight. It was time to end shuttle. It belongs with the souvenirs of the last century, with last century’s economics as well.

  • Norm Hartnett

    Sorry OIG not IGO. LOL

    What really has industry spooked IMO is the difference between the 2008 SAA and the 2011 SAA with regard to Funded SAAs.

  • As today demonstrated at the AIAA forum, NASA is non-partisan. You have conservatives and liberals, democrats and republicans, and tea party types too, who all realize the intrinsic value of the American space program.

    Shuttle is done. Its gone. Learn from it and let let go.

    Let go of the big government infrastructure. Let go of the mountains of bureaucracy. Embrace the partnership between the private sector and the government.

    Commercial is the only way to eliminate our reliance on Russia for ISS access. SLS cannot fly humans before the early 2020s. I was told today that MPCV to LEO is wasting billions. The question is, will big government “Only NASA” types realize this in time. Like I told a staffer today who was talking about the need for SLS:

    Do you REALLY think NASA is getting more money next year?

    Respectfully,
    Andrew Gasser
    TEA Party in Space

  • Googaw

    Yet another symptom that it’s a preposterous misnomer to label as “commercial” a “market” that is 99%+ government contracts.

  • amightywind

    Why has not a single GOP candidate for President come out against the budget cuts at NASA?

    I just posted a link to a GOP front runner feasting on the NASA issue. The NASA budget won’t rise. It will be gutted along with everything else. But NASA HSF will thrive. Peripheral activities, not so much.

  • Robert G. Oler

    amightywind wrote @ July 21st, 2011 at 8:20 pm

    all the link was was Gov Good hair bashing Obama. That is all it was. There was not a scintilla of support there for NASA or NASA’s version of HSF.
    if you think so, well you thought that the Falcon9 second stage was spinning out of control.

    Goofy RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    Major Tom wrote @ July 21st, 2011 at 6:02 pm

    Welcome back your absence has been keenly felt RGO

  • Robert G. Oler

    http://www.spacelaunchreport.com/jupiter.html

    with apologies to Jeff. Ed Kyle has done some really fabulous work on the Jupiter and its development…if you like “old rockets”…well this is worth a good read. Robert

  • I just posted a link to a GOP front runner feasting on the NASA issue.

    *Yawn* Usual Obamanator bashing Windy, nothing to see there.

  • Dave Huntsman

    ” The contracting approach could rob the CCDev program of much of its benefits.”

    IMO, that is the intent. There are people involved who indeed want to develop a true commercial crew industry – I think Ed Mango is such, for one, and there are others – but I also believe these ‘pro-’ folks are slowly losing to the relative ‘anti-s’. The ‘anti-s’ are not allowed to publicly disagree with the President, Administrator, Deputy Administrator, and now Congress, on developing a multi-competitor, American-led commercial space transportation industry.

    The one thing the ‘anti-s’ can do, however, is put in roadblocks, minefields, and impediments that will increase CC’s costs in a tight budget environment that may end up leading to enough money to only have one company if done this way. If that happens, then NASA will feel ‘forced’ to exert even more control- possibly even turning it into a traditional cost-plus contract – because they will have only the one commercial provider.

    Our Russian space friends have even more reason to smile than their current Soyuz-based monopoly; with this one change, NASA is deliberately handicapping the US in developing its own competitive commercial crew industry by adding this un-needed increase in NASA direct control of American companies’ own products. It almost guarantees that such vehicles will take longer to develop, be less innovative, and cost more. If that had been done in COTS, it wouldn’t have progressed like it has – which, IMHO, is the intent here.

    In short, we’ll be dependent on high-priced Russian spacecraft for even longer. That will, in my view, be the result if this preliminary decision is actually carried out. I’m wondering if the Administrator’s office and OSTP have been informed of that likelihood.

    I have a rare disagreement with Major Tom on this one.
    It has nothing to do with the amount of dollars involved. It’s all about whether the vehicles carry astronauts or not..

    I disagree. The COTS/CRS vehicles don’t just avoid doing damage to the manned ISS; they actually will approach, attach, be opened and entered by folks.

    And remember that NASA astronauts are not even required to be involved in test flights before NASA enters an actual services contract. They may choose to – but they should choose to based on what they then know about the vehicles, not as a ruse to sneak in government control where it is not, as far as we know truly needed. The hard data from Company run test flights and intensive insight should be sufficient grounds to be able to make a decision.

    .

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ July 21st, 2011 at 7:51 pm

    Yet another symptom that it’s a preposterous misnomer to label as “commercial” a “market” that is 99%+ government contracts.

    You already posted this on the previous topic, which is where I already responded. Instead of duplicating my response, I’ll just post one line, and you can read the rest on the previous blog topic. I said, in part:

    If you think a 100% commercial marketplace will pop-up without the logistics system to create it, then you’re pretty naive…

  • Major Tom

    “=blink= Of course they are, particularly if the ‘seed monies’… are denied from the private capital markets”

    When, where, and to whom have “monies” been “denied” from the “capital markets?

    Don’t make stuff up.

    And even if private funding had been “denied”, that doesn’t mean that NASA payments are a subsidy. The “capital markets” don’t fund warships, fighter planes, and tanks, but that doesn’t mean that DOD payments to companies to build, service, and upgrade warships, fighter planes, and tanks are “subsidies”.

    Think before you post.

  • Coastal Ron

    Norm Hartnett wrote @ July 21st, 2011 at 6:18 pm

    Your point is well taken, however, switching from a SAA to a FAR lite contract in the middle of the program is, to say the least, scary.

    My comment dealt only with the thinking that commercial crew somehow competes with NASA exploration, when if anything it complements it.

    Regarding the contracting and oversight methods being contemplated, yes, could be scary.

  • Major Tom

    “I just posted a link to a GOP front runner…”

    If by “front runner” you mean the President, Perry hasn’t declared. By definition, he’s not a “front runner”, in last place, or anywhere else in the pack.

    “… feasting on the NASA issue.”

    Based on utterly false statements. Perry whined about the Obama Administration forcing NASA astronauts to “hitchhike in space”, but the decision to shut down the Shuttle program was made by the Bush II Administration, not the Obama Administration. In fact, under the current Administration, flights were added to the Shuttle manifest.

    And Griffin didn’t carry out a flawed ESAS study and yoke the civil human space flight program to a technically crippled and vastly over budget and behind schedule Constellation effort for a half decade under the Obama Administration. That happened under the Bush II Administration.

    And even if Constellation were executable, Ares I/Orion weren’t going to hit IOC until 2017 at the earliest, and more likely 2019 based on independent Aerospace Corp. analysis. The Obama Administration inherited a minimum 7-9 year gap in domestic human space transport capability, and they’ve taken steps to reduce that gap by accelerating commercial capabilities.

    I’m no fan of the President in most areas, but making utterly false arguments out of political cynicism like Perry did does the space program more harm than good. Decisions on space policy need to be grounded in fact, not lying soundbites.

    “But NASA HSF will thrive. Peripheral activities, not so much.”

    We space cadets may not like it, but human space flight is the “peripheral activity” at NASA. All of NASA’s other major program areas — aeronautics, space science, earth science, technology — are years to decades older than NASA’s human space flight activities. And all these program areas are enshrined in the NASA Act. Human space flight is not.

    For better or worse.

  • Major Tom

    FYI…

    “The poll also finds that Americans have more faith in the private sector to continue space exploration than they do in NASA. More than half of those surveyed — 54 percent — think that private companies would take the lead on continued exploration while 38 percent think the federal government should continue as the primary conduit on space matters.”

    http://www.sunshinestatenews.com/story/americans-dont-want-shuttle-program-die

    FWIW…

  • Bob Mahoney

    It’s not like some of us haven’t anticipated this road. From my “prognostication” article last spring on TSR :
    +++++
    And then there is the “requirements hammer”. NASA possesses, inside of any budget authority Congress grants it, amazing discretionary power to get what it wants or to do away with what it doesn’t want via the requirements it imposes on its industrial providers. The viability of this entire space policy element hinges on how stringent those requirements will be since ISS delivery services (and the associated fees they will generate) are the big, sure bet for any interested companies and their investors. Just as the government’s guarantees to—and its imposed requirements on—the railroads went hand in hand to shape the eventual success of commercial transcontinental rail service, the future of commercial human spaceflight will likely rest on NASA’s buying services from these companies and on NASA’s requirements imposed on them. NASA could even make the entire idea disappear by defining requirements too expensive for any profit-oriented company to meet.

    [...]

    And even then, if the [few] competitors really became the only US providers of access to LEO (presuming the NASA BEO spacecraft were BEO-only with no LEO ferry capability), the government could very well end up stepping in with major funds to guarantee that access. In other words, after all the hullabaloo, we may end up right back where we started: a few large contractors providing a capability to the government for a cost-plus fee arrangement, [...]—just under a new name.
    +++++

    Others have offered other essays in TSR addressing variations on this theme.

    One has to wonder how much change will be possible under the umbrella of NASA’s oversight. And that isn’t necessarily all bad…a LOT of painful technical lessons learned (not to mention gallons of sweat) went into establishing the status quo of operational experience. Much of this is tightly intertwined with ‘the bureaucracy’ that is supposedly the primary enemy to the cause.

    We may see very rough seas ahead; let’s all hope that the quest to change the paradigm doesn’t get reckless in an attempt to bring about change merely for the sake of change.

  • Googaw

    You space activists are pikers. The next wave of exciting government funding, a crucial part of our future that the private sector has neglected, is Commercial Maseratis. We should have the government purchase and give away a Maserati to every young man on the planet when he reaches 18.

    Think of all the ways this would improve the world. It will provide millions of high-paying jobs ranging from blue collar to engineer. The spinoffs will be incredible, as inventions inspired by the race to build the fastest car get spun off into powdered orange juice, frying pan coatings, and the next generation of Green Technology. For every Maserati job we will create a dozen Green Jobs. The benefits will be incalculable.

    And the impacts on education will be astronomical. Dreams of Maseratis can be incorporated into our curriculum, inspiring young boys everywhere to learn the science of combustion, the mechanical engineering of cars, and much more. Furthermore, since few of these young men could afford to take their Maseratis to a mechanic, they will learn how to fix cars themselves. Very educational. We need Maseratis to inspire the next generation of engineers and scientists.

    Furthermore, scientists can install a wide variety of experiments into thousands of Maseratis to test drugs, spiders, and many other things in high-gravity environments. The cure for cancer is just around the corner!

    To avoid sexism, we can also give Maseratis to the young ladies, even if, or especially if, they’d much prefer the $100,000 be spent on something else.

    Don’t jeopardize our economic future!!! Maseratis for all now!!!

  • Googaw

    BTW, InTrade odds now show a 29% probability that there will be a raise of the debt ceiling. Have fun on your furloughs folks!

  • Aggelos

    Maybe the beyond earth space exploration will be with cooperation of goverments..Already Nasa and esa plan for combining their vehicles for beyond earth missions..

    Not one goverment alone can do beo exploration..

  • The one thing the ‘anti-s’ can do, however, is put in roadblocks, minefields, and impediments that will increase CC’s costs in a tight budget environment that may end up leading to enough money to only have one company if done this way. If that happens, then NASA will feel ‘forced’ to exert even more control- possibly even turning it into a traditional cost-plus contract – because they will have only the one commercial provider.

    Yes, exactly, bingo!

    It is starting already.

  • Major Tom

    “The next wave of exciting government funding, a crucial part of our future that the private sector has neglected, is Commercial Maseratis.”

    The joke doesn’t really work. Maseratis have been commercial since 1914.

    FWIW…

  • The joke doesn’t really work.

    Yes, it is a pretty stupid analogy, for multiple reasons. He lamely attempted it at my blog as well.

  • Googaw

    Coastal Ron, that was meant for this thread so I’ll respond here.

    I never said government could not play a role when industries are in their early stages. What I have stated before and implied in my prior message is that there have to be a large expected revenues’ worth of private customers from the start, as there were with communications satellites. Telephone companies, TV and radio networks, etc. from the start had a very compelling business with comsats and the business was soon dominated by private and non-NASA government customers pursuing purely utilitarian ends. Contrast that to a “business” that ever since its inception decades ago has varied between 99% and 100% funded by government agencies who launch astronauts for the sake of launching astronauts, while government agencies as well as private businesses pursuing utilitarian ends with their own monies rely solely on satellites for the space segment of their operations.

    This stuff is business common sense 101, but Newspace folks are hopelessly lost in their preposterous dream world of trying to “privatize” NASA economic fantasies.

    On the Maseratis, y’all lack a sense of humor too. What a bunch of obsolete curmudgeons.

  • Rhyolite

    “Yet another symptom that it’s a preposterous misnomer to label as “commercial” a “market” that is 99%+ government contracts.”

    Last time I checked, the biggest new space company is SpaceX and two thirds of their launch manifest is commercial, non-government. 99% isn’t even remotely correct. Step out of the ideological haze and look around a bit.

  • Martijn Meijering

    @Googaw:

    Aren’t you just saying that USG spending on manned spaceflight is unjustified? Quite a few proponents of commercial manned spaceflight would agree with that.

  • On the Maseratis, y’all lack a sense of humor too.

    Don’t confuse your inability to come up with good jokes (or satire) as a lack of a sense of humor on our part.

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ July 22nd, 2011 at 1:55 pm

    This stuff is business common sense 101, but Newspace folks are hopelessly lost in their preposterous dream world of trying to “privatize” NASA economic fantasies.

    Being a business guy, what you write doesn’t make much sense.

    I look at markets in a fairly simple way – supply and demand.

    If there is demand, such as getting crew to/from the ISS, then there is an opportunity for commercial supply. Until the Shuttle retired, there was not enough demand from NASA for an alternative supply. Oh sure we still had to use the Soyuz to actually KEEP people at the ISS, but most people were oblivious to this. That people are just figuring this out now that Atlantis did wheels stop just goes to show you how much people pay attention to space issues.

    So now here we are with a defined demand for transportation services to/from the ISS through at least 2020. What do we do?

    1. Keep paying Russia for Soyuz flights.

    2. Do #1 above until the MPCV/SLS become operational, and then pay 4X more per seat than what we’re paying the Russians.

    or

    3. Spend a $Billion or so (far less than finishing the MPCV) to develop two or more commercial crew systems. Call it an upfront investment to achieve lower costs in the future, which is a standard industry technique that Apple has used effectively recently.

    This is pure supply and demand here, so these are really simple choices to understand.

    If you do #1 or #2, then you won’t be encouraging potential space businesses like the Bigelow Aerospace space habitats, which he would like to lease for $23 million for a 30 day stay. Bigelow won’t launch his business until there are two or more commercial crew services, and likely no one else will either since no commercial firm will risk their business by depending on NASA for transportation services.

    So what do you do to start the transition from pure government demand to one that is mixed government and private?

    If you were king, how would you create a commercial crew marketplace?

  • Vladislaw

    Googaw wrote:

    “What I have stated before and implied in my prior message is that there have to be a large expected revenues’ worth of private customers from the start,”

    There are about 50-60 2nd and 3rd tier countries that have a big enough checkbook to buy seats from Boeing and SpaceX to take their astronauts to a Bigelow Aerospace Space Complex. They can have a full up space program for 300 million a year. I would thing with the lengthening list of MOU’s that Bigelow is collecting that the whole idea of demand is a freakin’ moot issue.

    People and countries want to be in space and American entrepreneurs and our free enterprise system should be the one to both capture and dominate this sector for the next couple of decades. Why you wouldn’t want America to have this sector for the high tech jobs is beyond me.

  • Googaw

    Rhyolite, the 99% as I’ve said many times refers to the HSF “market”. SpaceX is in the fortunate position of being able to launch unmanned satellites, which is as I’ve long observed its only real commercial launch market. Unmanned atellites and the launch of same are the sectors all Newspace should be focusing on in order to wean themselves off the NASA crack pipe and start contributing instead of taking out of the mouths of our children and grandchildren. But those high on NASA fantasies can only think about astronauts and ignore the actual business.

    Coastal Ron, the “demand” of “getting crew to/from the ISS” is entirely artificial and bears no resemblance in kind or magnitude to any private demand, and as you admit ends in 2020, only a few short years after it begins. The contrast between the real and strong demand from private industries ranging from telecommunications companies to news organizations for early comsats, as well as the purely utilitarian needs for same from the DoD, couldn’t be sharper.

  • Googaw

    Vladislaw, that business plan is based on a profound misunderstanding of what motivates governments to fund astronaut stunts. Governments fund these flights of celestial glory because they demonstrate their countries’ industrial prowess, because it is their native industries that build the gizmos required. They proved their industries could build bigger rockets than the other guys’ without actually lobbing bombs at D.C. or Moscow.

    By contrast there’s no prestige involved in shelling out money to foreigners to have them build the rockets and capsules. Witness all the brouh-hah-hah here about the ignominy of launching U.S. astronauts on Soyuz. This is confirmed by the fact that after many years of Newspace oribital HSF pursuing this business there still have been no paying customers outside of our own NASA. Out of these 50-60 countries exactly zero have signed up.

  • Googaw

    “Aren’t you just saying that USG spending on manned spaceflight is unjustified? Quite a few proponents of commercial manned spaceflight would agree with that.”

    Who, exactly? Given all the wailing and weeping and gnashing of teeth from these “proponents of commercial manned spaceflight” because NASA, Newspace’s one and only orbital HSF customer, wants to change the way it contracts, you could have fooled me.

  • Bennett

    Googaw wrote @ July 22nd, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    So, you have “Bigelow Blindness”? Or you choose to ignore what Coastal Ron and Vladislaw wrote?

    Why?

  • Googaw

    “If you were king, how would you create a commercial crew marketplace?”

    How would I create a market for selling Maseratis to every youngster on the planet when they reach the age of 18? You got me there. It’s rather difficult to pioneer new “markets” that are economic fantasies, in the case of orbital HSF a figment of NASA Cold War imaginations.

    Back in reality the obvious thing to do is focus on real commercial marketplaces such as building and launching unmanned satellites.

    If your motivation is, like mine, space colonization, which will be a centuries-long endeavor, there are many industries besides space proper developing relevant technologies, such as the ongoing pioneering of underground and the sea (especially in terms of oil and gas extraction and mining of metals and rare earths) and automation of same, that will be relevant to future technologies needed to actually colonize space. The technology for future space mining is now being developed on earth. There’s plenty of room at the bottom here on earth before we need to (or can) mine the skies.

    Orbital HSF is for the foreseeable future completely irrelevant to any real space or space-related business either short- or long-term.

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ July 22nd, 2011 at 5:50 pm

    the “demand” of “getting crew to/from the ISS” is entirely artificial and bears no resemblance in kind or magnitude to any private demand

    No more artificial than any other government spending. They have a need, and someone is going to supply it, regardless if it’s pencils, food service or moving people between two points.

    and as you admit ends in 2020

    I didn’t admit anything of the sort. I said “until at least”, since Congress has asked NASA to define what it takes to extend the usefulness of the ISS. The ISS PM has already stated that he sees no major reasons why it can’t be extended to at least 2028.

    Even if only 4 years of service is needed that should be enough to establish commercial crew for non-governmental uses, since the hardest part is getting the systems created and certified. Once NASA and the FAA figure out what the requirements are, and two or more companies show it can be done, then the way forward for other companies will be a lot easier.

    Just like Supply & Demand, this is a pretty simple concept to understand, and it’s what happens in marketplaces all the time. The hardest part is getting the first customer to pave the way, which in this case is NASA.

    But you’re still avoiding my question. If you were king, how would you create a commercial crew marketplace without any government demand?

    Don’t wimp out.

  • Bennett

    “the brouh-hah-hah here” seems to be about the madness of spending the money abroad instead of with American companies. Like many here, I have no problems with the Soyuz, but I’d rather US astronauts and scientists were riding a CST100 or Dragon capsule.

    The madness is having a congress that is so beholden to a few large aerospace corporations that they are willing to send the money to Russia rather than see access to space become less expensive via standard cost-plus contracting.

    The porkfest MUST go on!

  • Bennett

    “the brouh-hah-hah here” seems to be about the madness of spending the money abroad instead of with American companies. Like many here, I have no problems with the Soyuz, but I’d rather US astronauts and scientists were riding a CST100 or Dragon capsule.

    The madness is having a congress that is so beholden to a few large aerospace corporations that they are willing to send the money to Russia rather than see access to space become less expensive than standard cost-plus contracting.

    The porkfest MUST go on!

  • Googaw

    So, you have “Bigelow Blindness”?

    My eyes are wide open, observing again that if you have to fall back on the supposed authority of this UFO-hunting crank and his own particularly whacky version of the NASA economic fantasy, your argument is desperate indeed.

    Heck, even Bigelow has given up launching its little inflatables and has gotten in line with the other Newspace HSF orbital wannabes for NASA (sub-)contracts as its only source of revenue.

  • Googaw

    But you’re still avoiding my question. If you were king, how would you create a commercial crew marketplace without any government demand? Don’t wimp out.

    How about let’s make you king so that you can show me how you would make _my_ economic fantasies come true without government demand?

    How would you make a market for a half billion Maserati sales per year without any government funding? How would you make a market for tourism four miles below the earth’s surface without government demand? How about regular submarine service from Los Angeles to Tokyo that is competitive with ocean liners, that requires government assistance too does it not? How about a high speed rail tunnel from Auckland to Antarctica?

    Could it be that there are an infinity of economic fantasies which private enterprise is unable to fulfill without government help? Naah, couldn’t be. I’m breathlessly waiting for your grand central plans on how to make my economic fantasies come true without government help, or else I will demand your tax money and debt to be paid by your children and grandchildren to “get them started.” Come on let’s hear your plans. Don’t wimp out!

  • Vladislaw

    Googaw wrote:

    “Vladislaw, that business plan is based on a profound misunderstanding of what motivates governments to fund astronaut stunts.”

    So let me get this straight, a guy that created a billion dollar service industry by building budget suites, and is committing 400 million dollars of his own money to build space complexes, HE has a profound misunderstanding, and you .. you of course know better than him?

    When your checkbook has a balance of 400 million then I might take what you say seriously about what constitutes a market, in the mean time I will go with the people who have actually did it before like Bigelow and Musk.

    “By contrast there’s no prestige involved in shelling out money to foreigners to have them build the rockets and capsules. Witness all the brouh-hah-hah here about the ignominy of launching U.S. astronauts on Soyuz.”

    So all the countries that have wanted to ride on the Shuttle and Soyuz to visit the Mir and ISS where not after some prestige? Man what planet do you come from, every country that does not have their own space program have made a big deal out of going into space, no matter how they got there. You are being beyond silly now. I remember how canada, germany, japan, etc have all counted it as a HUGE deal when one of their own got to ride into space on the shuttle.

    The brouh-hah-hah? Other than politians trying to score political points against President Obama I do not see any of it. CNN had a special one hour program other than that.. where is all the media hammering this? Hell I would like to see a man on the street segment to see how many people even know the shuttle is done and that we are even using soyuz. Space is so under the radar for most American’s it is a non issue. Not one single friend of mine commented about it, I am the only space nut among my peers. I have have not seen a single facebook or twitter post about this from anyone I know. I would be willing to bet the vast majority on here would see the same in their networks.

  • vulture4

    There is private demand for HSF, but at a cost of $25M/seat to LEO that demand is only 1-2 seats per year. At $100K the demand even for suborbital flights is 100+ per year. So I would estimate that according to the demand curve, a viable commercial market for HSF to LEO, i.e. 50+ passengers per year, will require a price of <= $1M per seat. This can only be achieved with reusable systems, since the fabrication cost of the vehicle is much larger than this, while rocket fuel is cheaper than gasoline. That was why we built the Shuttle. Although it was much more expensive than anticipated, the reasons for its cost of operations have never been studied in any rigorous way. I would propose this be done before everyone forgets. It appears, from informal observation, that the cost is not due to reusability per se, but rather to critical decisions made before we had any hands-on experience with the new technologies. Obviously if we had it to do over we would do it differently.

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ July 22nd, 2011 at 6:39 pm

    It’s rather difficult to pioneer new “markets” that are economic fantasies, in the case of orbital HSF a figment of NASA Cold War imaginations.

    I’ll take that as a “no”, that you don’t have any ideas as to how we could transition from a government-dominated human transportation market to a commercial one.

    Now my expectations are calibrated for any future discussions…

  • Martijn Meijering

    Who, exactly?

    I think I’ve seen Rand Simberg and Jon Goff say this.

    As for colonisation: do you disagree that high launch prices (and costs) are the main obstacle to colonisation and more generally commercial development of space? Or do you disagree that RLVs would be no more than two decades away at most if NASA used its existing budgets (or even substantially reduced ones) to maximise synergy between exploration and their development?

    Because that is what leads me to believe a properly structured exploration program is one of the best bets for achieving our goals. Note that I’m not saying any government money should be spent on it, just pointing out that if you were to spend money, this would be a good way to do it. Also note that such a program could and perhaps should be completely unmanned.

  • eric

    As a former requirements analyst, I’m kind of stunned that any client of NASA’s size would enter into development agreements that didn’t allow them to tie milestones to requirements. That’s just insane. Nobody complaining about that part of the issue deserves to be listened to.

  • Heck, even Bigelow has given up launching its little inflatables and has gotten in line with the other Newspace HSF orbital wannabes for NASA (sub-)contracts as its only source of revenue.

    Now you’re just making things up.

  • Vladislaw

    vulture4 wrote:

    “There is private demand for HSF, but at a cost of $25M/seat to LEO that demand is only 1-2 seats per year”

    Russia has a long list of people who wanted one of the very limited seats on the soyuz for a ride to the ISS. One of the biggest reasons there were not even more people is that the one year training, in russia, and having to learn some russian was a show stopper. Once America is flying commercial and bigelow is in place you will see a lot higher numbers than 1 per year.

  • Googaw

    Vladislaw, me and every other investor on the planet _except_ the UFO chaser. And even Mr. MUFON has actually spent far less than the $400 million figure you throw out. Heck, anybody at all who didn’t care if they sounded like a crank could say that if they ever become a billionaire they’ll invest $400 million in their “business plan” to build high speed rail from Auckland to Antarctica. Or hotels in space. You know the difference between talk and action right? These days even the alien hunter is doing what every other Newspace orbital HSF daydreamer is doing, pursuing NASA (sub)contracts which are their sole source of orbital HSF revenue.

    vulture44 — by your own numbers that annual demand is less than 1% of the tax money government agencies spend to launch astronauts for the sake of launching astronauts. And I could swear I’ve heard that story before about how reusability will drop launch costs by orders of magnitude — it’s in the back in my memory somewhere — oh I remember! Does anybody else remember that quaint old project called “the Shuttle”? Whatever became of that?

    Coastal Ron: I’ll take that as a “no”, that you don’t have any ideas as to how we could transition from a government-dominated human transportation market to a commercial one.

    Love how you’ve changed the subject from _orbital HSF_, the economic fantasy which neither I nor anybody else has any actual clue of how to actually commercialize, to the broad category “human transportation.” It’s the economic fantasy of orbital HSF that you obsess over for which my answer is “no”. I suppose you’re going to now regale us with tales of airplanes carrying the mails and how that supposedly was necessary to reach the point where airlines would carry paying passengers. Never mind that (a) there were actually paying private sector passengers well before airplanes carried the official mails, and (b) hundreds of millions of people had been paying good money for hundreds of years to have mail delivered as rapidly as possible, and ditto for interstate and intercontinental human transportation, making the example hopelessly irrelevant to your billions for your LEO tourism daydreams. Both were already very large and very mature markets. The far more economically accurate comparison for orbital HSF is the infamous Bridge to Nowhere. Or my “plan” for high speed rail from Auckland to Antarctica.

  • Googaw

    So Rand now thinks I’m making things up when I point out that Bigelow too is in line for NASA (sub)contracts. Indeed, the reality is even harsher: the only revenue Bigelow has ever made from orbital HSF is from subcontracting to a NASA contractor.

  • Googaw

    MM: I think I’ve seen Rand Simberg and Jon Goff say this.

    Funny, I’ve read a great deal from both of these writers and have never seen them make any declaration that they want NASA to spend no money HSF as you suggest. Quite the contrary, I’ve read them incessantly plumping for more NASA money to go to “commercial” contractors who don’t make any revenue from orbital HSF _except_ from their NASA (sub)contracts.

    But if I’m wrong and they really do advocate cutting all NASA HSF funding including CCDev and the like, now’s a good opportunity for them to come out of the closet and say so.

  • Googaw

    Martijn, that kind of radical reduction of launch costs is like the Holy Grail, a long sought mythological construct. Other possibilities include living off the land for nearly all the stuff what will be needed instead of launching it out of a gravity well. In any case, such speculations about the distant future are pointless. Central planning of _today’s_ economy is bad enough, but making central plans today for the economy of the distant future is beyond absurd. Much less turning it into a government program!

  • Martijn Meijering

    In any case, such speculations about the distant future are pointless.

    Then I guess we disagree on how far in the future all this is. Or rather, could be. I think we agreed last year that it is likely to happen somewhere in the next 100 years, regardless of what NASA does or doesn’t do, and probably closer to the middle of that period than to the end. I believe it could happen within 20 years if NASA used its existing budget or even a substantially smaller one to explore and left launch services to the market.

    I’m not saying governments should spend money on this. And as a proponent of sound money and limited government I’ll volunteer that they shouldn’t. As a space enthusiast on the other hand I wouldn’t mind it too much if they did anyway. It would be a massive improvement over what we have today and what we’ve had for the past forty years. Admittedly that’s not saying much.

    Are we disagreeing it would be technically possible or are you just considerably more emphatic that spending taxpayers’ money on it would be wrong?

    Central planning of _today’s_ economy is bad enough

    I’m not talking about central planning, but about creating demand and letting the market sort out the required infrastructure, which is quite different. It would be more Milton Friedman than Karl Marx. I conjecture this would lead to RLVs and cheap lift and all the exciting things I would expect from that. In fact I’m confident it would work, but I don’t claim I can prove it.

  • So Rand now thinks I’m making things up when I point out that Bigelow too is in line for NASA (sub)contracts.

    No, you’re making things up when you claim that he’s “given up” on non-NASA markets.

    But if I’m wrong and they really do advocate cutting all NASA HSF funding including CCDev and the like, now’s a good opportunity for them to come out of the closet and say so.

    My position has always been consistent. I won’t complain if NASA HSF is defunded, but as long as they continue to spend billions on it, I want it spent effectively.

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ July 23rd, 2011 at 3:47 pm

    In the posts that you make, I’m reminded of the old saying “A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step“.

    Many of use have identified many of those initial steps on the long journey towards moving our civilization into space. You? You refuse to even take one step, but instead sit back and criticize those that are making the effort.

    You demean Robert Bigelow for spending his own money to create human habitats for lease in LEO, mainly I guess because he thinks intelligent life exists in other parts of the universe? Wow, radical. Still his money is good at any bank, and he pays his employees on time, so I don’t care what someones personal beliefs are if he’s getting us further along on our “thousand mile journey”.

    So while Bigelow gets us $400M closer to moving off this Earth, you sit on your duff and complain.

    I’m sure you feel the same with the other people and companies that want to co-invest with NASA, to stretch the U.S. Taxpayers dollars farther than they can on their own. Why? I don’t know, only you can tell us, but do it with ideas, not weird talk of giving Maserati’s to 18 year olds.

  • vulture4

    Googaw wrote @ July 23rd, 2011 at 4:09 pm
    Martijn, that kind of radical reduction of launch costs is like the Holy Grail, a long sought mythological construct.

    The difficulty that I face as a (would-be) industrial engineer after 25 years at KSC is that everyone considers lower cost a sort of magical process that either isn’t possible at all (and thus we must convince the public that “America’s greatness” demands infinite spending) and that the only thing stopping us is that the politicians in charge want to “destroy the space program”, or that low cost spaceflight can be achieved through some sort of magical incantation, i.e. by “unleashing private investment”.

    When I try to explain that it actually depends on things like maintainability of TPS, elimination of hundreds of hours of hazardous SRB lifts, replacing the crawler with rails, which have about 1% of the operating cost, etc, etc, their eyes glaze over. When I try to explain that fuel grade LH2 at LC-39 is actually cheaper than gasoline, they tell me they have to catch a flight back to [center name withheld]. There is an answer, but it is not a simple answer, and no one nowadays has the time to listen.

  • Martijn Meijering

    or that low cost spaceflight can be achieved through some sort of magical incantation, i.e. by “unleashing private investment”.

    In what way do you think it’s a magical incantation? It doesn’t seem that way to me. Fierce competition and innovation are what drives down prices in other markets where there is both large demand and the technical possibility of improvements. Space launch has the latter, but not the former although a government funded exploration program could provide it.

    I think you’ve indicated you would love to work on a small RLV.

    You call it sub-scale, but even a 1mT RLV would dramatically reduce the cost and cost structure of an exploration program. A 2-5mT would be good enough for space tourism. We don’t really need anything larger than that, since 20-30mT components like space station modules can be launched cheaply enough on existing launchers since they are reusable and more expensive than their launch and because their costs can be amortised over many years / missions / customers.

    As you know various parties are working on sub-scale (i.e. much smaller than even 1mT) suborbital precursors. If NASA bought $1B – $2B a year worth of propellant in orbit, then these companies and many others could get private funding for such orbital RLV development, simply because there would then be a market for it.

    I think such a program for competitively buying propellant in orbit is your best bet for working on RLV and our collective best bet for seeing commercial development of space. And don’t forget that Congress has been willing to “cross-subsidise” (to put it politely) the aerospace industry to the tune of $3.5B worth of Shuttle launches for the past thirty years.

  • Vladislaw

    Googaw wrote:

    “Vladislaw, me and every other investor on the planet _except_ the UFO chaser. And even Mr. MUFON has actually spent far less than the $400 million figure you throw out. Heck, anybody at all who didn’t care if they sounded like a crank could say that if they ever become a billionaire they’ll invest $400 million in their “business plan” to build high speed rail from Auckland to Antarctica. Or hotels in space. You know the difference between talk and action right? These days even the alien hunter is doing what every other Newspace orbital HSF daydreamer is doing,”

    He has two orbital test objects in LEO right now, how is that doing nothing? There is absolutely no point in launching a manned version until the access part of the equation is in place. Or would it be your idea that he should launch manned versions now with no way to get to them?

    He is currently building a new factory, again, how is that doing nothing? NASA came to him about a habitat test module for the ISS as part of a study for using inflatables for BEO. Bigelow Aerospace has made it pretty clear they are not going to put NASA in any criticial paths so it does not matter if NASA wants to buy a module or not, he is not going to allow NASA and Congress to get in the middle of his business plan and the funding games they play.

    He has stated that as soon as there is commercial access he will launch the manned version.

    The difference between “talk” (that means you) and action (that means bigelow) is that Bigelow has built and had launched two test articles and is currently building a factory. You are the talker and bigelow is action personified.

    So yes I know the difference between talk and action. You represent all talk.

  • pathfinder_01

    Vulture, I wonder if that comes from a organization that was known for doing one giant leap….and being a government one does not help either. Most innovations/improvements come over time. They are not done in one giant step, they are taking what is learned from the pervious and applying it to the next. I have worked in R/D facilties and companies that are expanding and lively don’t stop improving product.

    The things you mentioned would be hard to do. Improving things usually takes investment and if you are depending on Congress to get it, you are depending on something very fickle. Anyway those are the things that the commercial crew/commercial launchers have already addressed. Both Atlas and Falcon ride rails to their launch pads. EELV don’t have large segmented solids(they do have GEM). In terms of TPS all of the commercial crew are choosing easy to maintain/replace TPS.
    Companies that have private investment have reasons to seek to lower costs. NASA has little incentive to do so.

  • Vladislaw

    Googaw wrote:

    “Vladislaw, me and every other investor on the planet _except_ the UFO chaser. And even Mr. MUFON has actually spent far less than the $400 million figure you throw out.”

    Here is what I actually said:

    “So let me get this straight, a guy that created a billion dollar service industry by building budget suites, and is committing 400 million dollars of his own money to build space complexes”

    Now where in my statement did I say Robert Bigelow had SPENT 400 million dollars? I used the “committing” meaning that is how much he is willing to spend on this project. Maybe you should read for actual content rather than, to quote Major Tom, “make things up”.

  • Googaw

    Vladislaw, Bigelow has made no commitments of $400 million or anything similar. Blue-sky statements made by promoters are not anything resembling commitments.

  • Vladislaw

    I have 500 dollars in the bank, I am going to start a project that is going to cost 10 dollars per month, I am committing 250 dollars towards this project. 1 year later, I have spent 120 dollars of the committed funds towards that project.

    Are you really so absolutely dense that you do not understand the concept of committing a set amount of funds towards a project that is going to take years but will not need the total amount of committed funds from day one?

    Bigelow said he is committing 400 million towards this, if he can not make it work and be self sustaining by the time that runs out, he is done with it.

    You do not spend ALL your working capital in a long term project on day one.. you are really really hunting for a reason now.. but you are just looking silly.

  • Vladislaw

    So much for not ready to commit.

    Bigelow Aerospace to offer $760 million for spaceship

    “Bigelow Aerospace intends to spur development of a commercial space vehicle to take people into Earth orbit by offering to sign a contract worth $760 million with any company that can meet their criteria, company president Robert Bigelow says.”

    So much

  • vulture4

    Martijn Meijering wrote Fierce competition and innovation are what drives down prices in other markets where there is both large demand and the technical possibility of improvements.

    An excellent point Martijn, but as you point out the demand must be large and the R&D within the time and money constraints of the company. In human spaceflight the market is not certain (although probably >50 rides per year if cost >I think you’ve indicated you would love to work on a small RLV.

    Thanks for remembering, hey, if the people in this group were running the program we would be going places!

    But the reason I said “subscale” isn’t a matter of size per se, it’s the need to fly an engineering protoype _before_ attempting the design of any vehicle for operational use. The attempt to jump directly from paper to an operational vehicle was the primary cause of the unanticipated cost of Shuttle operation.

    Development doesn’t have to start at zero. The X-37 was well designed based on lessons learned from the Shuttle, and had excellent aerodynamics and TPS. In fact, Boeing used the X-37 planform in one of their two OSP proposals. The X-37 would have been the prototype, the larger but similar OSP the operational vehicle. But X-37 was dropped by NASA, OSP was dropped by NASA.

    For CCDev NASA wanted crew transport ASAP so Boeing had to go with the simpler but expendable CST-100. Yet NASA also chose the Dream Chaser, apparently because it looked familiar (the “lifting body” has been around since the 60′s) even though its L/D is vastly inferior to the X-37, OSC Prometheus, and Boeing winged OSP and no lifting body has ever landed on a runway unpowered and at a realistic mass. Apparently lift and drag are not concepts NASA is familiar with anymore. NASA has also shown no interest in the LOX/RP-1 reuasable winged flyback booster that DOD is trying to get started.

    So essentially the nation’s entire effort in reusables, which reached its peak in the 90′s, is now classified and hangs by a thread.

  • vulture4

    pathfinder_01 wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 11:55 am wrote “Most innovations/improvements come over time. They are not done in one giant step, they are taking what is learned from the pervious and applying it to the next. I have worked in R/D facilties and companies that are expanding and lively don’t stop improving product. ”

    Excellent point!!! That was the plan with the RLV program of the 1990′s, (yes, under Clinton). Incremental development. Build a little, fly a little, learn a little.

    Then NASA canceled the X-33 because it couldn’t fly SSTO. I remember one of the ESA guys at the Space Congress was shocked. He said “This is an engineering test vehicle. We would learn a lot from it even if it doesn’t go into orbit.” The NASA program manager didn’t understand his point. The engineers were not meeting specs. No magical SSTO, so obviously it was worthless. Well, the X-1 never flew in combat, the Wright Flyer never crossed the Atlantic. But NASA doesn’t understand the meaning of the letter “X”. Even today (I have seen it more than once) NASA people assume they can specify a totally new operational vehicle and achieve performance objectives by simply writing them into the specs.

    The NACA organization, which did only R&D, has become a NASA organization that does only political demonstrations. That was what we needed in the 60′s, when we hung balanced on the brink of nuclear war. But times have changed.

  • vulture4

    Pathfinder: Both Atlas and Falcon ride rails to their launch pads.

    Vult: Another good point, but (don’t laugh now) NASA wants to “refurbish” LC-39 VAB and MLPs and force the selected Commercial Crew contractor to adapt their vehicles and entire processing flow to use them, because the 55-year-old LC-39 is an “existing facility” and already “man rated”. Hopefully this idea will be dropped.

  • Then NASA canceled the X-33 because it couldn’t fly SSTO.

    X-33 was never intended to fly SSTO. It was canceled because it was running over budget and behind schedule, and had too many high-risk (and unnecessary) technologies in it. It was a flawed program from the beginning.

  • Martijn Meijering

    simpler but expendable CST-100

    You keep saying this, but it isn’t true, at least not according to Boeing. They say it will be reusable for 5-10 times if I recall correctly. Something similar was the plan for Orion, but that had to be ditched when they tried to reduce mass by enough to fit the constraints of Ares I. Maybe they’ll try to make MPCV reusable again.

  • Martijn Meijering

    In human spaceflight the market is not certain (although probably >50 rides per year if cost

    Your comment ended in mid-sentence. I agree launching crew is probably not a good way to get RLVs started, although you never know, and Blue Origin does appear to be moving in that direction. But what I had in mind was not launching crew, but propellant in support of an exploration program as a way to create a large enough market.

    One of the good things about propellant is that it is cheap compared to today’s launch prices, even for expensive propellants like hypergolics. If you want to use expendable spacecraft as payloads, then you’ll spend most of your budget on the spacecraft themselves, which leaves much less money for launches and consequently much less money for commercial R&D which is presumably a percentage of turnover. If you use propellant for reusable spacecraft as your payload, you can spend most of your budget on launches. Also, if you lose a propellant load it’s not a big deal (losing the RLV itself is a bigger problem), whereas losing a spacecraft is expensive.

    Another good thing about propellant is that it is easily divisible, so it makes a perfect payload for launch vehicles of all sizes, including very small “sub-scale” ones. For starters you could buy up most excess launch capacity in the US (on a cheapest first basis). This means that the high fixed costs can now be divided over a large number of launches, which should reduce launch prices almost overnight.

    In the longer term (5-15 years) you could expect to see small ~1mT RLVs. Once these had proven themselves both technically and economically, I would expect the business case for 5mT RLVs capable of carrying crew to close. At that point we will have become a true spacefairing civilisation.

    Finally, propellant (unlike other bulk materials) is terribly useful for, well, propelling a spacecraft, which is precisely what you would have to do for manned exploration. And at least in theory there is still USG funding for manned exploration. In this way funding RLVs would require no additional NASA funding, nor any management attention.

  • Coastal Ron

    Googaw wrote @ July 24th, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    Vladislaw, Bigelow has made no commitments of $400 million or anything similar.

    Here’s where he said $500M, and that was back in 2004:

    http://www.spaceflightnow.com/news/n0409/27bigelow/

    Seriously dude, haven’t you heard of the internet?

    Start with Wikipedia, and then as you gain confidence in your ability to find and understand information, then you can move on to big boy searches in Google… ;-)

  • Coastal Ron

    vulture4 wrote @ July 25th, 2011 at 6:39 am

    For CCDev NASA wanted crew transport ASAP so Boeing had to go with the simpler but expendable CST-100.

    You are mistaken – NASA has not told CCDev participants “ASAP”.

    NASA hasn’t even committed to when the final competition’s will be for the final CCDev step, nor does it know when the funding will be available.

    And as Martijn pointed out, you keep mis-remembering that CST-100 is being designed to be reusable for up to 10 missions. Here is an Aviation Week article that mentions that in case you don’t believe us:

    http://www.aviationweek.com/aw/generic/story.jsp?id=news/asd/2010/07/20/14.xml&channel=space

  • Vladislaw

    Coastal Ron wrote:

    “Here’s where he said $500M, and that was back in 2004″

    I heard him say 400 million on a spacenews video, it was after the two launches of his two test articles and his new factory had already been started. I assume that he must have about 100 million invested so far. I know that he is testing some other things that are for the future. One thing in particular is a machine to move lunar regolith on top of one of his inflatables.

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